Staging U-17 World Cup a big positive for women’s football in India: FIFA

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup is scheduled to be held in India from February 2021.

By Utathya Nag

Sara Booth, head of FIFA's women's football competitions, reckons India hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2021 will make a positive impact on the country’s footballing landscape, especially for girls.

Booth, who was speaking at an e-summit organised by Football Delhi, lauded the All India Football Federation (AIFF) for taking progressive steps to improve the infrastructure for women’s football in the country.

She also said that staging the World Cup would be certain to have far-reaching consequences.

The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in India was scheduled to be held in November this year but was deferred till February 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosts India will open their campaign in Guwahati on February 17 – the opening day of the tournament.

India hosted the men’s U-17 World Cup in 2017, which shattered global attendance records and proved to be a fine advertisement for India’s love for the beautiful game.

The exposure also had a positive impact on the senior national team, with India’s U-17 World Cup team captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam steadily rising up the ranks to establish himself as a mainstay in Igor Stimac’s squad.

Several others like Komal Thatal, Jeakson Singh, Suresh Singh Wangjam, and Dheeraj Singh are also knocking on the doors of the men’s senior squad.

Sweden’s U-23 national coach Yvonne Ekroth said football in India needed to give ‘equal opportunity’ for women to shine, just like the men.

Indian women’s football on the rise

Women’s football in India has progressed leaps and bounds over the past few years, with the national team performing well.

In 2018, the senior team reached the second round of the 2020 AFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament for the first time in their history after finishing second in Group C in the first round.

Besides their successes on the pitch, players like Aditi Chauhan, Bala Devi, Dalima Chhibber, and others, have also attracted attention from teams abroad, including Europe.

Booth feels that the upcoming U-17 World Cup will only serve to boost the positive image Indian women’s football has gained over the past few years.

National team midfielder Dalima Chhibber, who currently plays for Canadian university team Manitoba Bisons, echoed Booth’s sentiments.

“We need to develop the culture of girl’s football at the club level as well as school and college level,” she said.

“Participation of girls in football have significantly grown in Delhi in the last few years and with new competitions more girls will be encouraged to play football which was not the case when I started to play football in Delhi,” the Delhi-born Dalima said.